Yesterday, I read an article in The Guardian about an Australian nurse who spent several years working in palliative care – caring for dying patients in the last 12 weeks of their lives. She recorded their dying epiphanies in a blog which gathered so much attention that she put her observations in a book called The Top Five Regrets of the Dying.
Here are the top five regrets of the dying, as witnessed by Bronnie Ware (the nurse):
1. I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.
“This was the most common regret of all. When people realise that their life is almost over and look back clearly on it, it is easy to see how many dreams have gone unfulfilled. Most people had not honoured even a half of their dreams and had to die knowing it was due to choices they had made, or not made. Health brings a freedom very few realise, until they no longer have it”.
2. I wish I hadn’t worked so hard.
“This came from every male patient that I nursed. They missed their children’s youth and their partner’s companionship. All of the men I nursed deeply regretted spending so much of their lives on the treadmill of a work existence”.
3. I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.
“Many people suppressed their feelings in order to keep peace with others. As a result, they settled for a mediocre existence and never became who they were truly capable of becoming. Many developed illnesses relating to the bitterness and resentment they carried as a result”.
4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
“Many had become so caught up in their own lives that they had let golden friendships slip by over the years. There were many deep regrets about not giving friendships the time and effort they deserved”.
5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.
“This is a surprisingly common one. Many did not realise until the end that happiness is a choice. They had stayed stuck in old patterns and habits. The so-called ‘comfort’ of familiarity overflowed into their emotions, as well as their physical lives. Fear of change had them pretending to others, and to themselves, that they were content when, deep within, they longed to laugh properly and have silliness in their life again”.
Nothing more could be added.
And the next time that somebody questions our lifestyle choices… or tells us that we’re being silly / irresponsible / reckless by selling our stuff….drastically down-scaling…. going on an adventure with our kids…. unschooling…. living differently…. collecting memories instead of things… turning our backs on everything we “ought-to-be-doing” – I shall point them back to the research of this nurse.
The dying weren’t saying: “I wish I had purchased a larger home”… or “I wish I had saved more money”… or “I wish I had achieved more status in my life”… or “I wish I had taken out a better investment policy”.
And THIS is why we choose to live in the NOW! Why we want to live NOW… enjoy our kids NOW… suck the marrow out of life NOW… because I do NOT (!!!!!) want to be in the same position as so many before me: dying in my bed with deep regrets about the life and the dreams that I have wasted!!!
Nick and I have (finally) decided to STOP WAITING to start living!